Pope Benedict XVI's Weekly General Audience on Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Easter holidays may be over but there was a palpable atmosphere of celebration in St Peter’s Square this Wednesday as an estimated 25 thousand pilgrims cheered Pope Benedict XVI in diverse languages, wishing him a happy 85th birthday and “many more years” as Pastor of the Universal Church on the eve of the 7th anniversary of his election as Pope.

Touring the square in his open topped Pope mobile, well rested after a period spent in his summer residence in Castel Gandolfo, Pope Benedict thanked pilgrims who waved enthusiastically, holding up giant banners with birthday greetings. As a special birthday gift he asked them to pray for him so that he may “persevere” in his service to Christ and His Church”.

Then, from the white canopy before the basilica, the Holy Father returned to his series of catechesis on prayer as recounted in the 4th chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, inspired by the story of Peter and John who were imprisoned after the healing of a paralytic, because they had announced the resurrection of Jesus.

In comments in Italian, Pope Benedict focused on what he termed the ‘little Pentecost’ that shook the disciples gathered in prayer in the face of persecution, when “all unanimously raised their voice to God." "In the face of danger, difficulties and threats, the first Christian community does not try to carry out an analysis or draw up strategies on how to defend themselves, on measures to be taken, rather they join in prayer. A unanimous and united prayer. This something that should always be fundamental to the Church. The community is not afraid and does not become divided. This is the first miracle that takes place when believers are tested for their faith: unity is strengthened rather than compromised ".

At this time of trial, he said, the Church does not seek "safety in the face of persecution, but that it may be granted to boldly proclaim the word of God, it prays not to lose the courage to proclaim the faith, but first try to read events in the light of faith", until it sees in the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus" the key to understanding persecution. "

Here, the Pope continued “we also find the meaning of the persecution that the early Christian community is experiencing; this first community is not a simple association, but a community that lives in Christ, so what happens is part of God's plan . As it happened to Jesus, the disciples also encountered opposition, misunderstanding, persecution. In prayer, meditation on Sacred Scripture in the light of the mystery of Christ helps us to read the present reality within salvation history which God realizes in the world, always in His own way. "

The Holy Father concluded his catechesis: “Like the first Christian community prayer helps us to read personal and collective history in a just perspective that is faithful to God. We too want to renew the request of the gift of the Holy Spirit, that warms the heart and enlightens the mind, to recognize how the Lord realizes our prayers according to His loving will and not according to our ideas. Led by the Spirit of Jesus Christ, we will be able to live with serenity, courage and joy in all of life’s situations and with St. Paul boast in our sufferings, knowing that tribulation brings patience, patience brings tested virtue and tested virtue, hope: the hope that does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit Holy that was gifted to us. "

As is tradition the Pope also greeted pilgrims in various languages including English: “I offer a warm welcome to the General Chapter of the Brothers of Saint Gabriel. I also greet the group from the Faculty of Canon Law of Saint Paul’s University in Ottowa, Canada. I thank the choirs for their praise of God in song. Upon all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors, including those from England, Ireland, Finland, South Africa, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Vietnam, Trinidad, Canada and the United States, I invoke the joy and peace of the Risen Lord”.

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